And we leave it all behindCan’t you see we need some time?
at a camp i attended junior year, they would play The Woods by Hollow Coves a lot near the end. it just, made sense. it was winter. we were sleeping in tents outdoors. at meals, we would gather around the heater and melt into the homeliness that seems impossible to find in ten days. a few tunes from this song take me back. huddled up in our coats, the last day when we were leaving, all with heavy hearts. we didn’t know if we would see each other again, and for the most part, we didn’t. we still wish each other on birthdays. usually.
i only have vague recollections of my summer before college. i wasn’t really doing anything but also, doing so much. if i began to write everything that needed to be done, it would fit into a nice and concise paragraph or a cute Notion checklist that i customize, but practically, it was all over the place. the many trips to the embassy and the photo booth and the vaccination centers and all kinds of shops, the preparation takes over your entire summer, especially if you are not careful. i was not.
spread sparsely among the logistics are friend meetups and family gatherings—the goodbyes, but not really because every time, you think there is still a lot to get done, there are still weeks, and then, days left.
at some point, it hits you. the leaving. oh, the leaving. bitter or sweet, it is always heavy.
my thoughts were torn between the excitement of what was coming, what to expect of it, how i was failing at expecting and on the other hand, the deep, deep sadness of leaving everything behind. my home, my family, everyone i knew, my country, my culture, my language, everything. i was terrified, terrified that i would never be able to come back. metaphorically or literally. when i return, it wouldn’t be the same. i wouldn’t be the same. and the yearning to be in-place will forever stay. i will always be leaving.
once i was in the airport, once i was past where i could look back, once i had left, i was fine.
i boarded the plane when it was time, and flew to Doha and made it through my layover to my next flight and made it to Logan. i passed through customs. i reached MIT. everything was fine.
Ab tere bina yahan meri saansain
Jaise bina nindiya ki raatain hain to Translation: without you here, my breaths //are like nights without sleep
Baarishen by Anuv Jain will always remind me of August and rainy evenings staring out my window on the seventh floor, looking at Kresge. and writing my first leaving poem. and the scent of that oddly specific humidity. i don’t talk to my old roommates a lot. when i enter McCormick, i still think about those nights. it is the place that kept me through my first hurricane and my first week away from home.
in the beginning, campus was quiet, still plagued with post-covid summertime silence. it was scary. when i laid awake at night, i could hear bikes racing by on Memorial Drive. and a moisture hung in the air that kept me company. getting to Killian Court felt like the most-unsolvable puzzle.
soon enough, people started trickling in. i met my Graduate Resident Advisors and the Heads of House. international orientation started. the about-hundred of us gathered in Walker Memorial for some events, shuffling through classrooms where we had taken other Zoom sessions. a smaller group took the Red Line train to Porter Square. we went up the many, many stairs and reached the bigger-than-Central Target. we ran around collecting essentials and running over confused to our Orientation Mentors, asking the most basic questions, about laundry detergents and soap dishes, cross-referencing it with how things worked back home. it was pouring when we came back.
later, my roommates arrived. Abby C. ’25, someone i talked with on the McCormick group chat and who was in the same pre-orientation program as me, also came. we walked to Newbury Street together. i walked all the way across the Harvard Bridge for the first time. we talked like we had known each other for a while.
just as the first year pre-orientation program ended, orientation and residential exploration started. then, campus was really bustling. i went to a lot of events, meeting so many people. i moved into a different dorm, went to advising meetings and chose classes for the first semester.
and just like that, the leaving really, really ended. i was so caught up with the shiny-sparkly-always-happening life at MIT that I was no longer homesick. only a few weeks after i got to MIT, i said that one of my favorite things about MIT is that i never know how my day will go. it never goes the way i plan. i kept doing more, or less, but different things. this stabilized a little into the semester, and in later semesters, but for the most part, i would still say yes to many spontaneous plans, which has given me some of my fondest memories and closest friends.
Na pooch parizaadon sey yeh hijr kesay jhela hai
Yeh tan badan to chalni hai aur roh par bhi chalay hain Translation: don't ask from the beautiful, of the suffering of this separation OR don't ask of the suffering of this separation from the beautiful//this body is wounded and soul, too, has blisters
i watched Parizaad freshman spring. it was a Pakistani TV show about a person who is constantly trying to prove himself and find himself at the same time. he grapples with the struggles of growing up poor and the circumstances he is put through, while trying to find fulfillment for the poet inside of him.
i had fun watching it because in addition to the plot, the writing was really good, but more than that, it was the only Urdu i heard outside of calling my parents.
i did not skip over the homesickness part. i was very miserable at times. perhaps, because i did not have a huge adapting curve at the beginning, there were a lot of where the hell am i moments, even months after. the hallways in my own dorm would haunt me. i did not call it home for the longest time. in fact, i was fascinated and envious of others who did. it just seemed impossible that this random room in this the housing process at MIT is not random, but in the larger scheme of things, it feels right to call this random building could be home. it also felt like a huge declaration that came with the guilt of leaving my home, wanting everything back home to stay the same, then finding a new home.
at the same time, i kept finding people who let me explore who i was. who let me change and stay the same. i kept having conversations that made me feel like i had known the person for a long time. i started to, hold on to your hats, like that random building i was too scared to call home.
it hurt so much to leave home the first time. it, still hurts so, so much to leave my home. but, it also hurts when i leave MIT. i can promise you it will become so incredibly hard to leave MIT, if not the first year, then the second. it is a long and winding road. it looks different for everyone but it leads you home.
And it’s fine to fake it ’til you make it
‘Til you do, ’til it’s true
Snow on the Beach (feat. Lana Del Rey) by Taylor Swift reminds me of cooking in the Tang Hall kitchen and looking out my window, amazed by the heart-shaped puddle. January was fading away in a dramatically white haze. the coldest days that winter. when i would come back from everything, i would walk past Next House to Tang Hall and it would stretch infinitely far. almost every night, i would layer up and walk over later to 4W, like it was home.there is so much beauty and so much to become a part of once you let yourself. just by being involved with the communities around you, going to events and talking to people during and after, even if it is a bit nerve-wracking at the beginning, you can find a feeling of belonging so pure that it washes away the guilts and doubts and fears of the leaving and the trying to find new places and the forgetting and the remembering and the jumping headfirst into this brave, new adventure.
- Translation: without you here, my breaths //are like nights without sleep back to text ↑
- Graduate Resident Advisors back to text ↑
- first year pre-orientation program back to text ↑
- residential exploration back to text ↑
- Translation: don't ask from the beautiful, of the suffering of this separation OR don't ask of the suffering of this separation from the beautiful//this body is wounded and soul, too, has blisters back to text ↑
- the housing process at MIT is not random, but in the larger scheme of things, it feels right to call this random back to text ↑